Endometrial cancer – Symptoms, Risk Factors and Treatment

Endometrial cancer or the cancer of the uterine endometrium, is a type of disease that begins in the inner lining of your uterus. The disease accounts for nearly 5% of total cancer cases registered across the globe every year. Endometrial cancer often gets detected at an early stage as it frequently produces abnormal vaginal bleeding, which compels women to visit their doctors. Early prognosis also increases a woman’s chances of getting fully cured and leading a healthy life.

Symptoms of Endometrial Cancer

While the most common symptom of endometrial cancer is abnormal vaginal bleeding, several other signs and symptoms also follow.

Before Menopause: If a woman hasn’t gone through menopause, she can expect:

  • Heavy and prolonged bleeding during period, typically that lasts for more than seven days.
  • Heavy spotting between periods
  • Vaginal bleeding before and/or after a sexual intercourse
  • Periods that occur every 21 days or sooner

After Menopause: Vaginal bleeding that begins a year or more after a woman’s had her menopause is a sign of endometrial cancer. She must pay a visit to a doctor right away and get tested for the cancer type.

Other symptoms of endometrial cancer which can occur after or before menopause are as follows:

  • Vaginal discharge that’s watery or blood-tinged
  • Experiencing pain during a sexual intercourse

Symptoms that usually develop at a later stage of endometrial cancer include:

  • Pain and cramps in the pelvic region
  • Pain in the abdominal area
  • Feeling the presence of a mass or tumor in the pelvis
  • Unexpected weight loss
  • Fatigue
  • Bloating
  • Changes in bowel habits
  • Loss of appetite

Risk Factors associated with Endometrial Cancer

  1. Age and Menopause: Studies and surveys state that most endometrial cancer cases occur in women aging between 60 and 70 years. Women falling under this range have already gone through menopause and are also exposed to many other risk factors which can cause endometrial cancer. These typically include:
  • Estrogen-Only HRT: Undergoing hormone replacement therapy which only contains estrogen. The therapy is usually recommended by physician to treat the symptoms of menopause. However, it also increases a woman’s risk of developing endometrial cancer.
  • Later Menopause: Women who undergo menopause at a later age than usual are exposed to a greater risk of endometrial cancer. This is because their body is exposure to estrogen for a longer period of time.
  • Exposure to Estrogen: Women who experienced their first menstrual period before the age of 12 years are at an increased risk of endometrial cancer. This is because their body will be exposed to estrogen for a longer period of time than usual.
  1. Hormonal Changes: Certain conditions and diseases cause hormonal imbalance in the body, especially between the estrogen and progesterone levels. These changes can significantly cause thickening of the uterine lining and increase one’s chances of suffering from cell abnormality and cancer.

Typical hormonal risk factors include:

  • polycystic ovarian syndrome or commonly known as PCOS/PCOD
  • hormone therapy with tamoxifen for treating breast cancer
  • ovarian tumors which release estrogen
  • endometrial polyps or other growths present in the endometrium area
  1. Diabetes and Hypertension: Diabetes and hypertension are two other factors which significantly increase a woman’s chances of suffering from endometrial cancer. Many pieces of research have proved that the two conditions respectively affect the body’s functionality and hence, exposing to the risk of developing this chronic disease.

At the same time, women who have hereditary nonpolyposis colorectal cancer (HNPCC) have a higher-than-usual risk of suffering from endometrial cancer.

  1. Obesity: Women who are overweight or obese are nearly four times more likely to develop endometrial cancer. Oncologists state that this is because fat tissues produce high levels of estrogens in the body, which in turn are a major cause of endometrial cancer.

Treatment for Endometrial Cancer

Treatment options in case of endometrial cancer or any other known cancer depends upon the basic characteristic nature of the disease, including its stage and a woman’s health condition. Typical treatment options are as follows:

  1. Surgery: In most endometrial cancer cases, surgery is often the first and the most preferred option. Here, the entire uterus is removed along with the fallopian tube and the ovaries, which further eliminates the chances of cancer tumor growing and spreading to other parts of the body.
  2. Radiation: Radiation therapy is another commonly used treatment method to treat cancer. Here, powerful energy beams are used to kill cancerous cells. In some comes, oncologists may recommend the use of radiation therapy to reduce the chances of cancer recurrence after surgery. In certain other situations, the treatment method may be suggested before the surgery, to shrink the tumor and make it easier for the surgeons to remove.
  3. Hormone therapy: As the name suggest, it’s a treatment method wherein certain hormonal medications are given that affect the hormone levels in the body. It is typically an option considered in case a woman has an advanced stage endometrial cancer, which as spread to other part of the body.

Medications in this therapy help in reducing the amount of estrogen present in the body. At the same time, endometrial cancer cells that rely on estrogen for their growth process may also die in response to these specific medication.

  1. Chemotherapy: Chemotherapy is by far the best and most recommended form of treatment for all types of cancers, including endometrial cancer. The therapy used specialized chemicals to kill cancer cells. Chemotherapy is given in many form. One may receive one chemotherapy drug, or two or more drugs in combination, depending upon the stage of cancer and the patient’s body’s capacity to handle the drug.

Chemotherapy drugs may be given in the form of pills or through an intravenous procedure. The treatment type is usually strictly recommended to women with an advanced or recurrent endometrial cancer that has spread to other parts of the body. These drugs enter the bloodstream, travel through the body, find cancerous cells and kills them.

Though a comparatively rare disease, yet endometrial cancer can be very dangerous and life-engulfing. Getting treated at the earliest is the best way to survive the wrath of this chronic disease and lead a healthy, normal life.